Ban on plastic in Bhitarkanika aiding livelihood

After the park reopened for public entry early this month, carrying of environmentally-damaging polythene and plastic materials by tourists was banned.

To carry necessary items inside the acclaimed wetland spot in Orissa's Kendrapara district, tourists now have to either buy eco-friendly paper bags or cotton bags being sold by members of the local eco-development committees (EDCs), said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division.

The EDCs comprise people living in close proximity of the national park. Profit proceeds of the sale accrued from it would remain with committee members without any stake of the forest department.

"The scheme envisages generating self-employment and boosting local economy as paper and cotton bag manufacturing is being done under the stewardship of EDCs," said Mahapatra.

Locals are acting as a facilitating agency in mobilising the campaign against polythene and plastic within the national park, he said.

On an average, the national park is visited by 50,000 tourists annually.

Both the paper bags and bags made of cotton are economically priced at Rs 5 and Rs 10 respectively.

They have been made available at special counters at Khola and Gupti, the entry point to the national park.

"It's a welcome step. Polythene materials disposed of in the core area of the forest vitiates the environment. The tourists should abide by the rules frames by the national park authorities," said Bibhash Biswal, a tourist.

Rampant use of polythene and plastic materials inside the core area of the park was perpetrating considerable damage to Bhitarkanika's fragile eco-system.

The water-lets and drains were getting choked as stagnant polythene acted as artificial barrier against free flow of water.

Besides there were reports of species like spotted deer inflicted with tuberculosis and respiratory disorder following consumption of polythene dumped on the meadows, forest official said.

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